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Local and Regional Food: Farmers Markets and Beyond

A vendor places tomatoes into a plastic bag for a customer at a Maryland farmers market.  Many beginning producers use farmers markets as the gateway to direct marketing opportunities. Photo by Elvert Barnes

A vendor places tomatoes into a plastic bag for a customer at a Maryland farmers market. Many beginning producers use farmers markets as the gateway to direct marketing opportunities. Photo by Elvert Barnes

This week we’ve celebrated farmers markets as a vibrant segment of U.S. agriculture that offers a unique and personal way to connect producers and consumers.  We highlighted decades of farmers market participation, updated the status of farmers markets across the U.S., offered an example of innovation in the lessons learned by a market in Kentucky, and explained how structure and function interact through farmers market architecture.  Now, with National Farmers Market Week coming to a close tomorrow, we thought we should share some perspective on how farmers markets fit into the larger local and regional food landscape. Read more »

USDA Provides Historic Funding To Create Jobs, Improve Electric Service in Virginia

Since its humble beginnings over 75 years ago, the Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) in Virginia has provided reliable and affordable electricity to its 18-County service area located South of Richmond, the State Capital.

Yesterday marked a milestone for the electric coop with the announcement by Jonathan Adelstein, the Rural Utilities Administrator, of over $44.8 million dollars in guaranteed loan assistance. This will be the largest single loan and expansion project ever taken on by the cooperative.

“The guaranteed funding through the RUS Program will enable us to complete key projects that will improve reliability, customer service, and give us additional capacity to meet future load requirements which assist our local communities with economic development,” said Jeff Edwards, SEC President and CEO. He went on to say, “An exciting part of this expansion will be the implementation of Smart Grid Technology. This will allow for customers to actually monitor their power usage and help conserve electricity during peak times of the day.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Our Ongoing Commitment to Help Drought-Stricken Farmers and Ranchers

As drought continues to affect most of the country, our thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of farm families who have been affected by this disaster.

Earlier this summer the U.S. Department of Agriculture acted quickly to open conservation programs for emergency haying and grazing, lowered the interest rate for emergency loans, and worked with crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers.

On August 7, President Obama once again convened his White House Rural Council and announced several new measures the Administration is taking to help those impacted by the drought. Read more »

Recovery Act Creating Jobs in Kentucky

The renovated Fox Creek flood control dam in Kentucky.

The renovated Fox Creek flood control dam in Kentucky.

We’re seeing how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Recovery Act) creates jobs right here in Kentucky. The Fox Creek flood control dam in Kentucky, is a great example.

The Recovery Act was created by the Obama Administration to boost the nation’s economy, in part by developing and improving infrastructure like flood controls. (Floodplains and other wetlands are natural flood controls; dams are man-made flood controls.) Read more »

US Drought and Your Food Costs

This info graphic demonstrate how the current drought, or any event that affects prices for raw farm commodities, ultimately has a marginal effect on what we pay at the grocery or restaurant. The info graphic is based on data from the USDA Economic Research Service's analysis of retail food prices and the food dollar, or all the factors that affect what we pay for food.

This info graphic demonstrate how the current drought, or any event that affects prices for raw farm commodities, ultimately has a marginal effect on what we pay at the grocery or restaurant. The info graphic is based on data from the USDA Economic Research Service's analysis of retail food prices and the food dollar, or all the factors that affect what we pay for food. (Click to enlarge)

In relation to the current drought, many people ask: What does this mean for food prices? Here we try to provide a response and the necessary context on food price inflation. The info graphic is based on data from the USDA Economic Research Service’s analysis of retail food prices and the food dollar, or all the factors that affect what we pay for food. The graphic helps to demonstrate how the current drought, or any event that affects prices for raw farm commodities, ultimately has a marginal effect on what we pay at the grocery or restaurant. Primarily, the graphic demonstrates two important pieces of information:

1. In the bar chart, food price inflation is expected to be close to the historical average this year and just slightly above that next year. As you can see, recent spikes from 2008 and 2011, especially, outpace current forecasts.

2. In the grocery cart model, you see that raw farm commodity prices (the price of things like a bushel of corn or soybeans) are just one of many factors affecting retail food prices. In fact, commodities make up about 14% of the average retail food purchase, so even if all commodity prices doubled, retail food prices would increase by about 14%. Together, factors such as energy and transportation costs, labor costs, processing and marketing costs all play a much more significant role.

On July 25th, ERS forecast that we will likely see impacts on retail food prices within two months for beef, pork, poultry and dairy. Yet the full effects of the increase in corn prices for packaged and processed foods (cereal, corn flour, etc.) will likely take 10-12 months to move through to retail food prices, and should have little to no effect until that time.

For additional information, see USDA ERS resources: A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs (PDF) and Food Price Outlook web page.

From Special Training Program to Full-Time Forester in Mississippi

Christina Parker engages in a pine stand inventory on the Bienville Ranger District which is home to scarce communities of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Monday, July 30, 2012). Her data is used to develop the necessary forest prescriptions to treat stand structures to meet the forest’s land management objectives including activities such as timber sales or herbicide treatments. (AP Photo/Christopher Locke)

Christina Harper engages in a pine stand inventory on the Bienville Ranger District which is home to scarce communities of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Monday, July 30, 2012). Her data is used to develop the necessary forest prescriptions to treat stand structures to meet the forest’s land management objectives including activities such as timber sales or herbicide treatments.

Christina Harper, a new forester on the Bienville National Forest in Mississippi, has travelled a busy road from a special student training program to a full-time U.S. Forest Service employee.

Harper graduated from the Student Career Experience Program, which provides work experience directly related to students’ academic programs or career goals. The program exposes students to public service while enhancing their educational goals. Read more »